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White House targets cybertheft as worries about China mount (+video)

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Steps the administration expects to take include:

  • Ramping up diplomatic pressure. The US will work to build coalitions with other countries, work with overseas law enforcement, and use trade policy to press for better protection of trade secrets overseas.
  • Industry-led efforts to develop best practices to protect trade secrets and encourage companies to share best practices to lessen theft of trade secrets.
  • Accelerating Department of Justice investigations into trade-secret theft by foreign competitors and governments. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and intelligence community will give US companies warnings and threat assessments on technology being targeted for theft by foreign competitors and governments.
  • Review US laws to determine if changes are needed to boost enforcement.

Some steps, the new policy noted, have already been taken. Congress passed one bill to close a loophole that had allowed the theft of valuable trade-secret source code and another to increase criminal penalties for economic espionage and trade-secret crimes.

On Monday, a landmark report issued the cybersecurity company Mandiant of Alexandria, Va., outlined one potential aspect of the threat. It pointed the finger directly at China's military as a primary force behind the “advanced persistent threat” against Western cybernetworks.

It said an elite cyberespionage division of the People’s Liberation Army, called Unit 61398, has stolen data from at least 141 companies spanning 20 major industries, primarily in the US. Targeted for theft were “broad categories of intellectual property, including technology blueprints, proprietary manufacturing processes, test results, business plans, pricing documents, partnership agreements, and emails and contact lists from victim organizations’ leadership,” the report said.

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